KUALA LUMPUR: Religion and racial barriers were set aside on Saturday night during the 'Touching Lives' event held by the PT-Foundation, commemorating International AIDS Memorial Day 2011 with multi-faith memorial services.
Around 500 people from all faiths attended the event, paying tribute to the struggles and remembering loved ones lost to HIV-AIDS at the PT Foundation's social service help centre in Wisma Tancom, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman.
All major religions were represented. There were Buddhist monks, Hindu priests, Christian pastors and Muslim imams who led prayers throughout the four-hour event.
The sight of such unity in humanity during the event was indeed, touching and memorable.
"We are pleased with the support from these religious authorities. It is a special night indeed," the foundation's executive director Raymond Tai told The Malay Mail yesterday.
"It speaks volumes. At the end of the day despite the differences, the compassion and empathy showed on Saturday night was moving."
Contestants of reality-TV show 'Imam Muda' were also present to lend support and prayers.
"They were enthusiastic and open about the concept. They were good," Tai added.
The event was also organised in collaboration with United Nations Malaysia. It was held annually since May 2008 in conjunction with official day for the AIDS Memorial, which fell on Sunday (May 15).
Also present were Women, Family and Community Development Ministry secretary general Datuk Dr Noorul Ainur Mohd Nur, UNICEF Representative to Malaysia Hans Olsen, PT Foundation Malaysia chairman Hisham Hussein as well as World Health Organisations Malaysia technical officer Dr Harpal Singh.
Aside from remembering those who died due to the disease, the other main objective of the event was to remind the public that HIV-AIDS does affect lives in the country. Records also shown the spread of the disease remains at an alarming rate.
"Previously, major causes of the disease was through needle-sharing and drug convicts. But over the years, we have seen increases in the transmission through sexual activities."
Last year sexual transmission accounted for 48.5 per cent or almost all of the new cases. Thus, the foundation would have more events and talks to give the right information pertaining to the epidemic transmission of this disease and the importance of practising safe sex.
"It is vital because, contradictory to belief, more people, especially youngsters, are engaged in sexual activities. We need to give the right message across to all," said Tai.